Born circa 1920s
Evangeline Walton's full name is Evangeline Walton Ensley and she has lived in Arizona. No other biographical information can be found.
Walton is one of several modern writers who have retold stories from the four branches (or first four stories) of the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh legends. Sex, magic, and heroism loom large in the Mabinogion, which encompasses in simple words a wide range of emotion, striking every note from the comic to the tragic.
In her first book, The Virgin and the Swine (1936), based on the fourth branch, Walton portrays magic as a demonstration of the powers of the mind. She lays great stress on the cleverness of the enchanter Gwydion, who is constantly overreaching himself in the tricks he plays on others and who emerges as a very human and fully rounded character.
Walton explains much that happens in the Mabinogion in terms of a shift from matrilineal descent and worship of theMother Goddess to patrilineal descent and neglect of the Mother Goddess, bringing about a deterioration in the relationships of men and women. She also attempts to recreate the religion of the Druids. Her characters believe in reincarnation, and Walton expresses this belief so wholeheartedly she appears to share it.
The Virgin and the Swine was not a success, and Walton went on to different subjects in her next books. Witch House (1945) tells of a battle between good and evil in a house that was built by a warlock in 17th-century New England. The struggle between the warlock's 20th-century descendants is intense and thrilling. In the end good triumphs.
The Cross and the Sword (1956, reissued 1960) is the story of a Viking who comes to England in Anglo-Saxon times and is converted to Christianity. There is tenderness, violence, cruelty, and a touch of magic in this story, which attempts to solve some historical puzzles.
Lin Carter, the editor of a popular fantasy series, reprinted Walton's first book under the title The Island of the Mighty (1970, reprinted several times, the most recent 1993) and asked Walton for any other stories she might have based on the Mabinogion. She brought out a 30-year old manuscript, based on the second branch. In The Children of Llyr (1971, 1992), Walton is particularly fascinated by the character of Evnissyen, an insanely spiteful young man who is finally induced by the goodness of his twin, Nissyen, to atone for his crimes. Walton suggests the good man is higher up the ladder of reincarnation than the bad man and must help him.
The Song of Rhiannon (1972, 1992) and Prince of Annwn (1974, 1992), based on the third and first branches, followed in rapid succession, completing the adventures of the characters in Walton's earlier retellings of the Mabinogion. These two suggest that this world and supernatural worlds beyond are connected in a gigantic chain of evolution.
Walton's chief claim to critical attention is the way in which she has fleshed out the spare narrative of the Mabinogion, giving a plausible explanation in human and historical terms for the strange and magical doings of its heroes and heroines. She is a mistress of fantasy and deserves her long-delayed success.
Son of Darkness (1957). Four Branches of the Mabinogion: In a Complete Boxed Set (1974). The Sword Is Forged (1984).
Carter, L., Introductions to The Island of the Mighty (1970), The Children of Llyr (1971), and The Song of Rhiannon (1972). Merla, P., Introduction to Prince of Annwn (1974). Zahorski, K. J., Lloyd Alexander, Evangeline Walton Ensley, Kenneth Morris: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1981).
Children's Literature in Education (Spring 1978).
—BARBARA J. BUCKNALL